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A Family Treasure Hunt
In this week's spotlight, two brothers set out on a treasure hunting adventure. Will they survive the evil that is known to guard such riches? Read on!

"There I was, with a feather pen in my hand, trying to figure out why these maps were so hard to make out — and not just one, but all of them. I had just completed 300 world maps for the local provisioner in Minoc, as it seems the locals there can't even make it to the outhouse without an expertly drawn map. Plus, I had finished another 30 sea charts for Silor, a friend in Vesper, who is an excellent fisherman, but could not follow a star, even if it blinked: 'EAT AT KAZOLA'S.'

"Most people hire me to find treasure. My real name is Sir James. I was named after my father, a knight who fought in the SIN Wars, but all that armor and pounding wasn't my idea of a good time, unless I wanted to invest in Bulk Order Deeds in the blacksmithing field. But the name I earned was actually a joke from back in Trinsic where I grew up. We were all outside the city walls one day — a big group of kids looking for treasure — and when it was my turn to find the 'Butcher Knife of Parent Dismissal,' I searched for hours, looking high and low, with no luck. Finally, the kids made a huge X on the ground and, from then on, I was known as 'X-Mark.'

"I had recently received a message from my brother, Vlad. His home was in Ocllo, but he was adventuring out in the wilderness at the time. According to his message, he and his Training Master, Redeye, had fought liches in a haunted cemetery and found a map they could not make out; he figured it was exactly my cup of ale.

"I mounted my horse, Thunder, at the Minoc stables and rode to my boat, the Treasure Tub, which was docked near the Healer building in a small inlet off the main waterway. I led Thunder onboard and hooked him to the large iron eyelet on the deck of the Tub, and then headed out.

"I arrived at my brother's house late in the evening, after sailing all day and riding Thunder the rest of the way from town. When I arrived, I found Vlad swinging some big steel staff at local wildlife animals. He was a warrior, following in my father's footsteps, and lived with a craftsman named Cid, 'Mr. Craft-it-all.' When he saw me, he had just dropped a mongbat whose head looked remarkably like dragon dung.

"We went inside, where Cid was tailoring some leather trousers so fast it would downright amaze you. Of course, he paid us no heed, but continued his work. Vlad reached into one of his metal chests, pulled out a map, and handed it to me. I examined the map and noted the lich language from the etchings and marks on the parchment. After several hours of checking my Sosarian lingual tome, I decoded the map. It revealed the treasure's location as an island in the southern seas. The map showed a small 'X' just inside the tree line, near the shore. I looked up at Vlad, who was spit-shining his spiked mace, and grinned, 'X marks the spot!' I looked through my backpack, searching through several books containing rune etchings that I had made during previous treasure hunts. I finally found the book that matched the island. I told Vlad to get his mount, and we prepared to leave.

"As we walked outside, I memorized the wording needed to open a gate to the island. As I mouthed the words of travel, blue streaks of light hit the ground, and the wind swirled leaves in a circular pattern, forming an oval, blue gate seemingly made of water. I mounted Thunder and motioned for Vlad to follow. Together, we plunged through the waters of time and movement.

"As we arrived on the shore of the island, animals quickly scattered away from the sight of us appearing out of nowhere. I looked at Vlad, 'According to the map, the spot we are on is 25 paces south of the treasure, which is right by those trees up ahead.' Sure enough, as we moved forward, my trained eyes noted that the leaves of the nearby trees still dangled rotting flesh, proof that liches had been here. I found some brush that had blown away just enough to reveal a disturbance in the earth. I pulled out my shovel and got to work. Vlad refused to do such work, thinking it to be beneath his 'Holy Armorness.' I worked for a good hour until I heard a thunk. 'I found the treasure chest!' I said over my shoulder as I began to pull it from the ground. When I got the chest to the top, I noticed the smell of charcoal emanating from the soil, and then the chest began to glow and the ground began to rumble. I stood petrified as I watched dirt and rock explode into the air from the hole, and then monsters appeared everywhere from the dust of magic.

"Immediately, Vlad went into action, pulling forth his mace and shield in one smooth movement. His mace made contact with a Lich Lord who was preparing to launch a magical attack on me. I turned just in time to see an Ogre Lord and Fire Elemental closing in on my position. I slid on my trusty ring of invisibility and disappeared, confusing the monsters. While they looked for new prey, I reached into my backpack and slid my hand along the familiar shape of my small harp. I began to play it, softly at first, and then louder, until the Ogre Lord shrieked and grasped its head between its palms. As the ogre pulled its huge hands away from its eyes, I noticed they were beet-red with anger. It jumped onto the Fire Elemental, dowsing the flames which kept it alive, even while its own flesh burned away in layers. I looked back at Vlad, who had left his mount and was holding the Lich down with its own staff of magic, choking the last breath from its lungs. Finally, it lay still. I returned my attention to the Ogre Lord and the now vanished flames of the Fire Elemental. The ogre looked towards me again, wanting to kill the source of the music that was driving it mad. I mouthed the words of spinning steel and reached forth as bladed spirits flew forth from my hands and slammed into the Ogre Lord until it finally fell over from its extensive wounds.

"I easily picked the lock on the chest and, with sleight of hand, removed the traps set for us. A gleaming pile of treasure and gold awaited us within. Vlad's eyes lit up as he shoved me out of the way and began to loot the chest. He did not notice the dust swirling behind him as he took more and more loot from the container. A huge spider formed and crouched behind my brother. I yelled a warning, but by the time he heard and responded with his mace, webs quickly entangled him and his weapon, forming a cocoon. I shrieked in terror as the spider bit through his armor, making a horrible scraping noise. Vlad yelled out in pain, and I saw green lines of poison trickle down his skin.

"Anger welled up inside me as words of fire climbed up from the depths of my soul. I Flamestriked the dread spider again and again, until its legs curled up beneath its body and its flesh fell to the ground in smoldering patches. I quickly ran to Vlad and sliced the webbing away. I applied bandages to his wounds and spoke the words of healing as I touched his skin. White light slipped from my fingers and into his body, and the green lines soon faded. I gathered up the treasure he had already taken and finished looting the chest, being careful not to trigger any more unwanted evil. I laid Vlad upon his steed, hooked his harness to Thunder, and gated us home.

"There, Cid rushed out to help me with Vlad. We laid him in bed so he could rest from his wounds. I showed Cid the treasure and he marveled at the Viking sword we found, saying it was the finest steel he had ever seen. It glowed with power, ready to vanquish any enemy that should cross its path. I smiled, knowing it would be worth a good penny.

"I grabbed the sword and headed to the tower of the famed Treasure Hunters of Britannia. When I arrived, I met with Blackheath, head of the guild. I presented the sword and explained how my brother and I had obtained it. It was enough to prove to the guild my skill at treasure hunting. And so, I became a member and was titled Master in my skill. Afterwards, I returned to Minoc. Seeing yet another stack of orders for world maps, I sighed, "Oh well, I guess I still need the practice if I wish to become a Grandmaster treasure hunter.""

X-Mark of Great Lakes

It is with great pleasure that we present these tales of your adventures in Ultima Online. Please join us again next week as we share another of the many stories of Britannia that you have created, and keep an eye on FYI for new spotlight topics!

Published: December 2002
Please Note: Some dates are estimates as exact dates were unavailable.
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